5, 2019 Session
from the Circuit Court for Davidson County No. 17C1929 Joseph
P. Binkley, Jr., Judge
appeal arises from the trial court's award of
attorneys' fees to three state employee-defendants. The
plaintiff, also a state employee, sued the defendants in
their individual and official capacities related to the
plaintiff's termination from his employment. The
defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The trial court
granted the motions and dismissed the plaintiff's claims
with prejudice. The defendants then filed a joint motion for
attorneys' fees, relying on Tenn. Code Ann. §
29-20-113, which permits a state employee to recover
attorneys' fees when the employee is the "prevailing
party" on claims filed against the employee in the
employee's individual capacity. The trial court granted
this motion and awarded reasonable attorneys' fees and
costs to the defendants. This appeal followed. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Michele Hodges, Nashville, Tennessee, and Tia Marie Bailiff,
Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Andy Aylor.
William Joseph Haynes, III, and Raquel Lee Bellamy,
Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Scott Lindsey.
David McClanahan, Christopher Michael Lackey, and Jenifer
Bonilla Moreno, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson Co.
Michael Stewart Holder, Yijie Larry Cheng, and David Randall
Mantooth, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Joe
L. Jackson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Craig
G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ.,
G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.
3, 2016, Andy Aylor ("Aylor") was terminated from
his employment with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
("MNPS"). Aylor brought suit related to his
termination on February 21, 2017, against the Metropolitan
Government of Davidson County, Tennessee ("Metro")
and two MNPS employees. On July 13, 2017, over one year after
the date of his termination, Aylor amended his complaint to
add Joe Vanderveen, Scott Lindsey, and Craig Ott
(collectively, "Defendants") in both their
individual and official capacities.
asserted multiple claims against Defendants, including
negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy,
defamation, and violation of Aylor's due process rights.
Defendants moved to dismiss the claims for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Tenn. R.
Civ. P. 12.02(6), arguing, inter alia, that the
claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations. In
their memoranda of law in support of these motions,
Defendants also asserted that Aylor failed to sufficiently
plead that Defendants were acting within their individual
capacities. The latest date on which any of Defendants filed
his motion to dismiss was October 2, 2017.
January 18, 2018, the trial court entered an order granting,
in part, Defendants' motions to dismiss, with the
exception of two of the claims against Ott, on which the
trial court requested further briefing. The trial court
revised this order on May 1, 2018, and subsequently entered a
final order and dismissed the remaining claims against Ott on
July 10, 2018. The trial court dismissed the majority of the
claims as to all Defendants on statute of limitations
grounds, and all of the dismissals were with prejudice.
Thereafter, Defendants filed a joint motion for
attorneys' fees. The trial court granted the motion and
awarded Defendants their reasonable attorneys' fees and
expenses pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-113, which
provides in pertinent part:
(a) [I]f a claim is filed . . . against an employee of the
state or of a governmental entity of the state in the
person's individual capacity, and the claim arises from
actions or omissions of the employee acting in an official
capacity or under color of law, and that employee prevails in
the proceeding as provided in this section, then the court or
other judicial body on motion shall award reasonable